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  1. Haven’t listened yet, but right on! It’s so nice to see these ideas starting to get out into the mainstream. One of my readers said she’d read Austin’s book (which I recommended on the blog), was giving it to people for Christmas.

  2. Dan,

    I enjoyed this podcast, and I think it is very important to use every bit of our mental ability and intuition to interpret the scriptures on as deep a level as we are capable of reaching. I also think it is critical that we realize that the revelation that came from God to the authors of the scriptures was necessarily filtered through their eyes (their understanding, their cultural conditioning, etc.). I also think it is imperative that we understand that a similar filtering occurs when we study the scriptures. Therefore, any interpretation that we make should be viewed as incomplete and taken with with a large grain of salt. It seems to me that the subject of this podcast, what genre to place a particular section of scripture into, is an extension of the narrower question of whether to interpret a particular section of scripture literally or figuratively. I am not an expert in this area, but my understanding is that there is no objective way of answering the narrower question. If we are being honest with ourselves, we should recognize that the choice that we make for a literal or figurative interpretation always comes down simply to a choice made by our gut. By gut, I mean the combination of our intellect, feelings, intuitions, biases, other unconscious thought processes, etc. Hence, our choice may be incorrect. Here is a thought experiment that might help illustrate the idea that I am trying to get across. Take some written account of your choice about any historical event that would seem to you to have moral implications and interpret it as has been done with the scriptures in this podcast. If you make an honest effort, I think you will see that a case could be made, say a thousand years from now, that it was not a historic event and was never intended to be taken literally. For example, take some written summary of the story of Hitler. There is so much in the historical accounts of Hitler that seems to be difficult to believe as a strictly historical narrative. To name just a few–his execution of millions by fire which lead up to his own self-inflicted death by fire, his spreading of a pagan religion that included his own acquisition of certain religious objects as a way of amassing magical power which did not save him in the end, and even his introduction of the volkswagen (the people’s car) which was a silver lining decades later to the cloud that he threw over the world. The bottom line is that any semi-intelligent person can come up with all sorts of arguments for taking an historical event figuratively and produce all sorts of supporting evidence. The real question should be whether we are interested enough in the truth to make the effort to know ourselves well enough to have a shot at recognizing the truth, or are simply choosing to believe what we would like to believe.

    1. I thought one of the points of Austin’s book is that literature comes in genres and is written with certain intentions and that there are clues – sometimes glaringly obvious, sometimes not – as to what those genres are, clues which can guide a ‘faithful’ (faithful to the text) interpretation. Authorial intentions are not always obvious but not entirely absent in literature either and sensitivity to the author’s intentions can aid interpretation too. But I don’t agree that texts can be interpreted ‘faithfully’ either figuratively or historically just as we individually want, without doing violence to the text. I liked Austin’s book because it demonstrated this kind of fidelity, while bringing Job into illuminating relationship with a Mormon ‘worldview’.

  3. Another great episode! I remember reading Job for the first time while going through some pretty horrendous personal tragedies. I went to the text hoping to find something to cling to–something to help me stop my complaints less I incur the wrath of God further. You can imagine my surprise when I read the passages where Job curses his very existence and confesses his frustrations with God. I’ve lived with the stories of “the patience of Job” and the “law of the harvest” my whole life, and with these stories I condemned myself over and over again for my humanity and frailty. The stories we tell frame our world view and lives, and I now find it imperative to continually question them, dig deeper and go back to the source (or the lava as you so often talk about, Dan). And I’ve found for myself that when I take the Cliff’s Notes version of a text that it often ends up amounting to personal damnation because it doesn’t account for the complexity of human experience.

    Thank you all for reworking this text. I loved the insights you shared.

    And thank you, Dan, for putting together this podcast each week. You do such a fantastic job. Each time I think, “he can’t beat that one,” and you prove me wrong again and again. I feel Mormon Matters is your ministry, for lack of a better term, and I so appreciate the heart and depth you bring to your work. I’m only able to contribute $5 each month for now due to lack of employment, but when my employment status changes you can count on me for a more generous monthly contribution.

    And has Boyd ever done a podcast on his feminist readings of Genesis? I’d love to listen to his thoughts on that text!

  4. Michael/Dan, when you speak of the JPS Bible, it seems like there are a few different versions of it out there. Is there one that you recommend? This one looks good from my layman’s perspective, but would appreciate the thoughts of anyone with more experience in the area. Many thanks for a great podcast!

    1. Austin, there are two different translations that go by the name JPS Tanakh. The first one was a 1917 translation by the Jewish Publication Society. It is now in the public domain and available here: http://www.hareidi.org/bible/bible.htm. The second one was completed in 1985 and is the basis for pretty much everything that carries the name JPS today. Sometimes it is called the NJPS (New JPS) to avoid confusion.

      There are several actual Bibles that use the 1985 JPS Tanakah translation. The one you link to here is the Oxford Study Bible edition, which was published by the Oxford University Press. It combines the excellent 1985 NJPS translation of the Tanakh with equally excellent supporting material (footnotes, textual glosses and commentary, contextualizing articles) that was commissioned by Oxford to go with the translation. This is precisely the version that I use almost any time I want to read the Old Testament. i actually bought two copies–the hardback for my home and the paperback to keep in my office at the University. I would recommend it to anybody.

      The only possible downside (and this is just a matter of the form) is that it does not contain any of the deuterocanonical texts (what LDS and Protestants call “the Apocrypha,” which can actually be very helpful in situating some of the Wisdom literature, such as the Book of Job. For those (and for the New Testament), I use the Revised English Bible (REB) also available in a phenomenally good Oxford Study Bible edition.

  5. I like Boyd’s use of Christ as an example of the go’el (redeemer) that Tom describes here. I also like thinking of us as the go’el for those around us, especially people who may not have their own kindred to look out for them (as was the Jewish tradition). Makes us a different kind of “redeemer” for our sisters and brothers in the here and now, similar to us being “saviors on Mount Zion” for those we do work for in the Temple. And it forces us to live more in the present, to learn how to have charity, and to help others by doing the things Tom said the go’el was to do for Job, rather than just dreaming of our mansions above (to paraphrase hymn 223).

  6. In my ward’s recent Job lesson, the teacher acknowledged that “some scholars” believe that the Book of Job is not historical. The teacher, however, suggested two reasons “we know” that these scholars are wrong: (1) as you mentioned in the podcast, the Lord mentioned Job to Joseph Smith and (2) latter-day prophets and apostles have referred to Job in General Conference.

    The teacher then, after discussing the God/Satan dialogue, read a quote that said the dialogue was most likely a poetic/non-historical portion because God doesn’t negotiate with Satan.

    Later, the teacher enthusiastically told the class that scholars believe that Job’s symptoms were likely elephantitist.

    Upshot: The Book of Job is historical expect any part that conflicts with our beliefs. Don’t trust scholars, except the scholars that support our beliefs because they’re OK.

    I look forward to buying/reading Michael Austin’s book.

  7. THOROUGHLY enjoyed this podcast. Putting it in my “library” next to the Genesis series podcasts. It was SO enlightening and on so many levels. Thank you.

    So here’s my question. How do I find a place within my own ward when my paradigm is so different? And by that I don’t mean that I need my ward to see things the same way I do (i.e. scripture as literature, leaders as fallible, roles of the sexes, etc, etc (you know the list)). I just want to feel like I don’t have to keep all of my own views hidden all the time. But in the past when I’ve spoken of things that didn’t fall into the “traditional thought” category, the push back I’d get and the kind “corrections” I’d feel members give so I could go back to seeing things the way they do is proving difficult for me.

    So, on the one hand, I LOVE where my faith journey is taking me when I learn such expanding and enlightening things (i.e. this episode), but on the other hand, it’s so isolating. It makes staying more difficult when church doesn’t seem to provide a lot of space for “out of the box” viewpoints, but instead pushes for beliefs and teachings to tow the line. Which I do 99% of the time. But then I feel insincere & hypocritical, which also makes staying difficult.

    I’d welcome any suggestions. Thanks again for another eye-opening and refreshing lesson.

    1. SLSDM,

      I appreciate your concerns about staying in your ward and the church. It can feel less than comfortable. When I’m responding I’m trying to be honest and helpful while doing no harm. It can be a challenge and I’m constantly working at how to do it. Especially when I teach or am in a leadership position. I think the space is there, but we’ve let it get crowded out over the years and need to gently and charitably reclaim it. As I’m sure you know, this space for more liberal belief is set out in our theology.

      If you live along the Wasatch Front there is a group of us in a similar place as you who meet. If you are interested you can email me at faithagaingroup@gmail.com.

      1. I’m from that area, but don’t currently live there. I only go back to visit family 2-3 times/year. Otherwise, I’d take your kind offer. Thank you for your reply and consideration.

  8. Loved the discussion and have much the same thoughts and conclusions. Nevertheless, in Mormon teachings Joseph Smith instructs us that there are laws decreed that do regulate reactions by divinity that have a very direct correlation to human behavior and choices. Thus, the poem of Job seems to conflict with what occurs in an temporal social system, as would be discussed in a Gospel Doctrine Manual.

  9. I would love to have a list of the recommended books and authors from this podcast, so I can look them up. I am definitely getting rereading job.

  10. Thanks for another really interesting podcast! I’m not actually a Mormon, but have LDS friends and attended lots of church services from different Christian denominations, including LDS. I am not LDS for reasons frequently discussed in Mormon Stories podcasts, but you know, those are very similar reasons I’m not comfortable with many other denominations out there either. The literalistic way of viewing things, the “our particular way is God’s preferred way” attitude, the getting stuck on minutiae of religion like whether to drink coffee (or non LDS equivalents) when we could be spending our efforts on social justice, the way LGBT person are treated institutionally (with similar arguments once used to “justify” slavery, denying women and non-white people the vote or equal opportunities or equal pay, opposing inter-racial marriage etc), the anti-intellectualism, etc etc…

    Having said that, I’m so happy to listen to you guys discussing things on a deep, serious level, and am happy for the many interesting things I am learning as I listen to the podcasts, which are relevant to Christianity as a whole. The quality of the discussion is just so superb so much of the time, and Dan: Your positive attitude sends out virtual light beams along with the audio.

    It’s funny, the Roman Catholic Church seems to have been through all this theological wrestling going on in many Protestant denominations today and come out reasonably well on the other side as far as that is concerned. No flat earth ideas from them scientifically – they appear to have learnt from what they did to Galileo. Also a nice focus on social justice (and I’ve taught in Catholic schools, and that was really consistent, as was a really nice RE curriculum that did great and fair comparative religion modules, philosophy, ethics, reflective journalling etc, and a way more laid-back attitude than many Protestant denominations display).

    The Catholic Youth Bible, aimed at high schoolers, encourages students to read the Bible pretty much exactly as you guys discussed in the podcast, and has explanations on different genres used, cultural contexts, dramatic conventions, and moral truth versus historicity, etc etc. I wish more Christians were on that page. And no, I can’t become Catholic, because I’d have to lie about certain beliefs in the admissions interview – but so would most of their congregation that’s born into their faith, if they had to actually convert into their own religion…

    Oh, the complexities of being Christian and finding a community that’s not us-versus-them, but still believes passionately in a personal relationship with God…

    Best wishes to all here! And well-wishes for the personal journeys of all reading this. 🙂

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